People First of Oregon    

Fairview: The Closing Chapter

History: Chronology

1908: Fairview opens as the Oregon State Institution for the Feebleminded, Oregon. It is named by the Oregon Legislature in the language of the period as "an institution for the training, care and custody of feeble-minded, idiotic and epileptic persons." 

Thirty nine mentally retarded patients are transferred across town from the "asylum" (Oregon State Hospital).  The "inmates" move into two dorms at the rural site on 672 acres two miles southeast of Salem.  Many early residents are epileptic; few have serious physical disabilities.

1920s: A 1929 institutional manual notes that more than 300 residents are sterilized.  Much of the institution's farmland is cleared by 1920.

1930s: The institution is renamed Oregon Fairview Home -"a more suitable designation and wholesome name" according to the legislative bill that made the change.  Employees and residents operate a 500-acre farm that produces milk, eggs, pork and vegetables.

1940s: Fairview's population continues to grow with more than 1,235 residents and 189 attendants living in a dozen dormitory style cottages.  Attendants ask for separate housing from the patients.

1950s: Fairview notes a "marked decrease in the median mental age" of residents.  The gymnasium-auditorium, first requested in 1913, is built in 1957.

As Fairview celebrates its 50th anniversary in 1958, Superintendent Irving Hall lauds the institution's long history of service, including its policy of forbidding the use of, locks, bars or fences. In remarks reflecting the popular philosophy of that era, Hall asserts that retarded children and adults benefit when they are segregated from mainstream society. "We recognize that a large percentage of children committed are emotionally disturbed and are not using the potential they have," he said. "This is a result of always being pushed around or ignored, so that they cannot build confidence. At Fairview, they live with others on their own level and learn self confidence and eventually to be useful."

 1960s: The population at the crowded institution peaks at 3,000.  The trend continues toward serving people with severe mental and physical disabilities.  Many farm activities are eliminated.  Medical and religious services improve.  Officials estimate 12 percent of residents can be self-supporting.

 In 1963, President John F. Kennedy calls for a system of caring for the mentally disabled in the homes and neighborhoods of America. Amid the Civil Rights Movement, Congress obliges with laws that begin a reformation of the way the nation treats the mentally retarded and the mentally ill, emphasizing small group homes instead of large institutions.

 1970s:  Fairview is renamed Fairview Training Center. The population falls below 2,000 as major reforms are underway and efforts to empty state institutions gain momentum in Oregon and throughout the nation.  There is an increase in programs at Fairview.  Apartments that once house staff now prepare residents for the move to the community.  The last of the farm operations cease.  A new definition of mental retardation makes 84 residents ineligible to stay.

1980s: Federal regulators and advocacy groups repeatedly criticize Fairview, assailing its size, staffing and living conditions. Between 1984 and 1989, more than 500 people are moved from Fairview and placed in group homes.

In 1985 The U.S. Department of Justice concludes that life-threatening conditions exist at Fairview.

In 1987 Health Care Financing Administration yanks certification from Fairview and cuts off it Medicaid funding for 14 weeks.  This funding covers about 60 percent of Fairview's operating costs and its loss costs the state $7 million. 

In 1989, fearing the withholding of federal Medicaid support and expensive legal costs, state officials agree to spend tens of millions of dollars to hire additional staff, upgrade facilities at Fairview, and move more residents to the community.  Fairview adds more than 900 new employees.

1990s: Few people are admitted to Fairview. As another 400 residents were placed outside the institution, mental health officials report that the average annual cost of caring for a single Fairview resident had climbed from $60,000 in the mid-1980s to $212,000 by the mid 1990s.  T

In 1994 a federal judge approves the appointment of a consultant, selected by the U.S. Justice Department to monitor Fairview. The consultant, Sue Gant, who lives in the Caribbean, is paid more than $324,000 between April 1995 and August 1997 for her advice.

In 1997 Fairview's population falls to 304. The state writes long-term disability services.  The plan calls for closing Fairview and investing resources in community services for Fairview residents and people on the statewide waiting list. The 1997 Oregon Legislature decides to close Fairview.  

2000: The last resident leaves the institution on February 24.  Fairview closes.

Sources for this material include the Salem Statesman Journal, February 26, 2000 and the Oregonian, February 20, 2000